By Montana Grant

Posted: January 28, 2021

Ice fishing can often be slow fishing! The water is cold, low, dark, and everything has slowed down. This is when you need to remember what makes a fish bite!

Fish sense is important! Most living things are aware of their environment because of their sense of smell, sound, sight, taste, and feel. If you do not consider these issues, you will catch few fish in the winter.

As the Winter snow covers the ice, fishing slows down even more. The suspended fish are in almost blind in a cold, still, dark environment. Most fish can survive without eating for about 3 months. The last 3 months of Winter is when the feeding cycles slow.

To stimulate a bite, consider these tips.

  • Light shovel the snow off the ice in the area that you are fishing. The fish will suddenly see a beam of light and be attracted to the area.
  • Smell Use a glow scent, flavored to the fish you target. You can also add Mineral Oil to the hole to scent your rig and keep it from freezing over. Chumming, if allowed, also can draw fish in and keep them around. I often use corn niblets as chum. Cleaned fish parts, also work. Drop the roe and remains down the hole.
  • Sight Use glow jigs and scent attractors. Use a light to charge them up. You can often see them glowing down the hole. Fish do not see color but chartreuse and orange seem to reflect more light. Flashy, trashy tinsel and material on ice flies attracts more fish. You can also bounce a large, flat washer on a silty bottom to mimic feeding fish. Jigging or adding motion to the bait will attract attention.
  • Taste The attractant gel has a flavor along with the scent. I have also used cooked rice, soaked in a liquid scent, to add to the hook and chum. Live bait, where legal is also a tasty treat, that also shows movement. You can’t use live minnows in most of western Montana. Always check regulations.
  • Texture is something to consider. Winter fish bite lightly and will spit he bait out if it does not feel right. A natural feel is important. That’s why most winter rigs and jigs get tipped with a maggot, mealworm, or worm. Mix up the flavors and bait with all 3 for a fun buffet.

Fish smarter and make sense!

Montana Grant

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